Dozens of female Democratic lawmakers dressed in all white Tuesday during President Trump’s State of the Union address.
The display, meant to show solidarity on women’s issues, evoked the all-white dresses worn by women in the suffragette movement in the early 20th Century.
The powerful political statement, which was amplified by the record number of women in the 116th Congress, stood out during the televised broadcast, with photos of the female lawmakers quickly going viral on social media.
Trolls asking, “Who were all those #nurses on the floor last night?” in response to a sea of #suffragist white. Your fake query & sarcasm was meant as an insult. But, guess what? We love & value our #nurses & we are 100% here to cure what ails this country! Right, @RepUnderwood?
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) February 6, 2019
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 6, 2019
— Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) February 5, 2019
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, organized the response. She asked women on both sides of the aisle to join the display to mark the 127 women elected to the House and Senate and to honor the centennial anniversary of Congress giving women the right to vote.
“Tonight when Trump looks at the Democratic side,” Frankel said before the speech, “he will see a wave of suffragette white.”
Frankel said she hoped to garner attention for the issues important to her fellow lawmakers: equal pay, access to health care, paid family leave and affordable quality child care.
“There’s so many issues I feel like people’s eyes glaze over,” Frankel said. “We want to send the message that we’re fighting for them.”
One of the most memorable moments during the night came when the president, touting his stewardship of the economy, said that women had filled 58 percent of the jobs created in the last year. The remark led Democratic women to stand and cheer.
Trump continued, noting that “exactly one century after Congress passed the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” sparking more celebration.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, called that a highlight of the night.
“I think that our numbers were seen and how important this election was. A hundred-and-twenty-seven women now in the House. When I first arrived there were 24,” said Kaptur, who was first elected in 1982.
But Democrats also expressed disappointment that colleagues across the aisle did not join them in wearing white.
Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., said it was troubling that so few of the women in Congress were Republicans — only 21.
“I think we need more women in Congress,” Kuster said after the address, “and we need more women in both parties.
Kuster also took a jab at Trump, saying “he shouldn’t get to take a victory lap on more women in Congress without helping his own party.”
GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming on Twitter criticized the display, saying that the Democratic women were clapping for “themselves.”
Things my Democrat women colleagues wouldn’t clap for at #StateOfTheUnion2019 tonight: America, freedom, free enterprise, law enforcement heroes, record low unemployment for women & minorities, the right of babies to live. Things they did clap for: themselves.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) February 6, 2019
Some Democratic men also showed their support during the speech.
Reps. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Dean Phillips also wore white jackets, while House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer,D-Md., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., sported white ribbons.
Proud to join House Democrats in wearing white or a white ribbon at the #SOTU to send a respectful message that we stand with women across the country and will continue to defend their rights. I thank @HouseDemWomen for leading this effort. pic.twitter.com/fmYpDMfMcY
— Steny Hoyer (@LeaderHoyer) February 5, 2019
— Rep. Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) February 6, 2019
I wore white to the #SOTU to honor the extraordinary women of the 116th Congress, to honor my mother Dee Dee, whose “ERA Now” pin I remember well, and the suffragettes, whose tireless work afforded my great-grandmothers, Sara Johnson and Rose Phillips, the right to vote in 1920. pic.twitter.com/aPW42XQzYB
— Rep. Dean Phillips (@RepDeanPhillips) February 6, 2019
“It is about gender,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.. “It’s about men joining with us to recognize that discrimination against women is a bad thing.”